Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Dutch House

One last piece from the past: a Dutch house I made in 2008.

The interior details, particularly the fireplaces, were inspired by those in Rembrandt's house in Amsterdam. There is a great web site for the Rembrandt house, with a virtual tour:
I took ideas for the furniture from various paintings of the period.

Some details: A painter has just finished a portrait in the lower left room; the sitter's hat and cane are on the table. The kitchen has a built in bed. The upper left room has a baby house on the back wall.

I was having some camera issues (since resolved)when I took the interior shots, so they aren't as clear as I would have liked.

This piece is now part of the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniature Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another Piece from the Past

This is The Mallory Gallery - a fine art gallery with an artist's studio and residence upstairs.

The half-timber building has a stone foundation and a slightly sagging tile roof. Among the paintings on display in the gallery, and also on the easel on the second floor, are tiny watercolors by my friend Terry Junger.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Memory Lane

While I'm finishing up the Christmas project, it seemed a good time to post a few pictures from past projects.
This is a 1:12 scale version of my sales table that I made for a collector who made a wonderful room box of the Chicago International show a couple of years ago. The houses are 1:1728 scale - one twelfth of 144th scale. And no, they aren't furnished. One has to draw the line somewhere!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa's Workshop

I have't been posting for a bit because I have been working on a Christmas present for someone. I can't post pictures or describe what I'm doing, because it's going to be a surprise. I will put up a picture later, after she receives it.

It will be done by next week, and things will be back to normal.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Shopping

I have a few items now in stock that can be shipped in time for Christmas, including a Christmas room box ($450.) If you're interested, write me at for pictures and prices!

Miniature Collector

The new isssue of Miniature Collector (January 2010) has a wonderful photo of one of my single room baby houses on page 38. Mary Kaliski takes the best pictures! This version doesn't have legs, as it was made to sit on a table.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


What a great show! It was so good to meet those of you who stopped by the table.

Time to clean up the studio and start on new orders. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fa la la la la!

Sometime I make things just for the fun of it!

I'm on my way to Philadelphia Miniaturia this weekend. If you are coming to the show, please stop by my table to see the pieces I've been posting lately, and to say hello!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finished Crooked House

It looks better with the roof on, doesn't it?

I kept landscaping to a minimum, so the focus would be on the unusual shapes of the house. if you look carefully, you'll see that even the roof tiles are crooked. It was really quite a struggle to get them that way. I put them on in strips, and they kept trying to be straight!

The chimney follows the sides of the house, and almost looks as if it has a wave in it.

There's a bit of a slant to the floors, so I thought of propping the furniture up on one end to make it level. However, I've beeen inside houses like this, and the occupants just seem to deal with the angles, so I decided to leave it alone. The little porcelain dogs in the basket are by Sylvia Mobley; I repainted the basket and liner so it matches the furniture.

Sometimes I decide on a project just because I know it will be fun to make - this is one of those!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Crooked House

The house is progressing, one story at a time. It's going slowly because with all the different angles, almost every piece is a different size.
If you look at the top floor, you can see the textured gesso undercoat I put on before painting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Crooked House

And now for something completely different - a house that's intentionally all askew.

Some real half timber houses do look crooked, because they were built with unseasoned timbers that warped as they dried. This one is based on a design I made a few years ago, but I've changed most of the angles to be greater or less than square. It's amazing what a difference 2.5 to 5 degrees can make in this small scale.

This is a card stock mockup, something I do for new designs to make sure everything will fit together properly. There will be a chimney on the right side, but I didn't bother with that on the mockup, since it will just be added to the outside.

A Cup of Christmas Tea

In spite of that cold I mentioned, I have been busy. Philadelphia Miniaturia is less than three weeks away!

The tree is similar to the one in the Christmas room box, decorated with micro bead ornaments and tiny crystal "lights".
I get the little domes with turned walnut bases from Shoalts Collectibles. I think they are very elegant.

(Ooops! I didn't notice one of the pulls on the table was slightly askew when I took the picture.)

Cozy Cottage

Finshed! It looks very much like the one from last spring - as it's supposed to. I keep notes and photographs of everything I make so that I can make another one when it's needed. There are always slight differences, of course.
The porcelain dog on the cushion is by my friend, Sylvia Mobley.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cozy Cottage

I've been working on a design I've made before - "Cozy Cottage". I'm also fighting a nasty virus cold, so I haven't been taking "in progress" pictures. If you would like to see one of these take shape, go to the Archive below, March 4-12.

I will post a picture when the house is finished; should be in the next day or so.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Christmas Room Box

They're finished! I only took a picture of one, since all three are the same.

The dollhouse under the tree is 1:1728 scale (one twelfth of one hundred forty fourth scale.) It's not furnished - I have to draw the line somewhere!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Christmas Room Box

The three Christmas rooms are well under way. The room is a Victorian style parlor. The big, empty space is where the Christmas tree will go.

The gold leafed frame and the still unpainted liner are on the right.
The box will be mounted behind the frame and liner. Because it is smaller than the frame, the finished piece sits at an angle, which makes it easier to see inside.

The Christmas tree begins with a plain little brush tree. I cover it with snips of unraveled Bunka (a Japanese embroidery floss) to give it a softer, more pleasing apearance. I'll decorate it with micro bead ornaments and add tiny rhinestones to give the effect of lights.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Room Boxes

My new project is three Christmas room boxes. I've made this one before, but these will be a bit different because it's no fun to make the same thing over and over!

So far, I've gold leafed the frames and built the boxes. I'll be finishing the interiors today.

Pictures this weekend.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Finished "Tree House"

This piece took a lot of time and thought to complete.

A big decision was whether to add leaves; and if so, what size to use. I finally settled on life size leaves, because the branches and acorns are
real. I tried a number of sizes, and settled on leaves that are about 2 1/2" long, including the stems.

The leaves are "silk". I removed the hideous plastic veins they came with, and replaced them with delicate wire, which both looked more natural and allowed me to shape the leaves as I wished.
The landscape is early fall, when most things are still green, and the leaves are just beginning to turn.
I originally intended to call this "Aloft", but thought "Tree House" was really more appropriate, especially since I had already used "Aloft" for another piece.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aloft - progress

You will notice the twig has grown a few more branches!

In order to have branches where I need them, I just add them at the appropriate place by using a wire connecter, gluing the branch in place, and then sculpting wood putty over the joint to match the joints of the naturally occurring branches. I will paint the joints to match the natural surface later - right now they just have a base coat.

The base has a nice, shiny finsh, so I will sand the part that needs to be landscaped in order for the materials to adhere properly.

Aloft - the bed

I spent a long time building the bed for the walnut house, so I just had to show it off.
The headboard and footboard are made from driftwood roots my friend Terry found for me.
After I took the photo, I decided it still "needed something," so there's now a floral comforter folded across the foot of the bed.
The bed is 1/2" long.

Friday, August 14, 2009


For my next project - a walnut house high up on a branch.

The branch is from one of the oak trees in our back yard, courtesy of a recent wind storm.

It's about 6 1/2 inches high, and wasn't originally quite this shape. I make breaks where needed, and put the pieces back together with a wire joint so I can bend them. There will be some more of that later on, when I add some smaller branches.

Since it's very difficult to work on the walnut house once it is hanging on the branch, I'm planning to finish it completely before installing it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bending Jig

For Karin and anyone else who noticed the Etch Mate 3C bending jig on my workbench: if you use etched metal parts, by all means, get one! It makes clean, precise bends and is a big improvement over various contraptions I have rigged up myself. Also, it is beautifully made. One of my "can't live without it" tools.

It's available from Micro Mark, and I believe it's even on sale at the moment.


Someone asked for a picture of my studio a while back. Here's one end of it - my workbench - all tidied up before I started on the gourd house. Chaos descends rather quickly as I work on a project, but I always clean up when I'm finished.


Thanks to everyone for the nice comments on the gourd house. It's one of my favorite projects ever.

Yes, it will be coming to Philadelphia Miniaturia, but first it will be in a three week show at the Honora Bird Gallery in Lansing's Old Town from September 10th through the 30th.

I'm starting work on a new walnut house - pictures tonight!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Finished Gourd House

The landscaping took a long time. I just couldn't seem to stop adding things. I was going for a late summer look, which seemed appropriate for the gourd. The lovely, smoooth pebbles were collected along the shore of Lake Michigan, in the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, about three hours north of where we live. Some contain tiny fossils.
I pick up bits and pieces of natural materials everywhere I go. You never know when something will be just what you need for the next project.
The big interior room is a sitting room. I decided against the canopy bed, as it would have taken up too much of the floor space. The bed must be in the smaller room, but can't be seen because a curtain partly covers the doorway. It's always good to leave a few things to the imagination.

Monday, July 27, 2009


The chimney has been reworked to look more informal. A big improvement, I think.

After a trip to Michael's to find just the right parts, I've also added leaves and a vine, which still need detail painting.

I will be working on the interior next, and then the landscaping.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gourd II

So far I've finished the door and windows and begun the interior.

I had imagined that the bedroom would be behind the smaller window, but since the main room has such a high ceiling, I'm thinking of putting a canopy bed there.
The little room could be a storeroom. It's barely visible anyway, as there's a curtain in the doorway.

I found some smooth, round stones along the Lake Michigan shore a few years ago, and they certainly look good with the gourd. I'll probably be using a few more in the landscape. It's amazing how much space I need to store the bits and pieces of this and that that I keep to use "someday."

I've discovered that if I finally decide I will never use something, and throw it out, that it will be exactly what I need a few weeks later.

The chimney looks a little stark - will have to work on that some more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And now for something completely different

It's always nice to take a break from the architectural stuff and do a fantasy project.
A friend once said, "Oh, Nell, everything is a little house to you!" Not quite true - but certainly anything that is or could be hollow has potential.
I picked up a couple of small bottle gourds at a show a few years ago. One I made into a house almost immediately. For that one, I used the gourd standing upright.
I'd always planned to do the other one lying on its side, with the small end propped up somehow. It seems the time has come - stay tuned!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The landscaping is finished, and the house is ready for delivery.

This project required almost all scratch built parts, from door and windows to siding.

I was lucky to have pieces of N scale Victorian trim that were very similar to the piece on the front gable end, though they did require quite a lot of reworking. I used photographs of the actual windows to give the appearance of curtains behind the window frames.

The landscape is at it appeared early this spring, when I was taking pictures of the house. The pine tree is actually larger, but I scaled it down so that it wouldn't overpower the house.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Structure complete!

I finished the house at about 11:30 last night, after a week of very long days. Here it is, waiting for the landscaper to arrive.

A photo of the real house is in the background.
The landscaping should only take a couple of days - I'll post new pictures when it's done.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's been a long couple of days, but the siding is finally finished. Going around all the windows was a very time consuming task.

The window frames and doors were set in place for the picture.

Tomorrow I will begin painting and finishing, starting with the house color and then painting and finishing the windows and doors.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Still working...

The siding is taking longer than I had anticipated - eight hours today to finish just two sides.

Not quite ready for pictures tonight but by tomorow I should have enough done to pop the windows in and take a couple of shots.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Progress Report

Since my last post, a lot has been accomplished.

All the walls are up, with window openings cut in them - an exacting job that took three long days. The three doors, plus the screen door on the front porch, are ready to install. The front porch and front steps have been built, but won't be attached until after the siding is finished.

I'm working on the siding now and hope to have it finished late tomorrow.

I've been putting in long hours and haven't had time to take pictures. I will post some in the morning so you can see how it's coming along.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Enlargeable Image of Windows

I couldn't get the photo on the last post to enlarge, so here it is again, along with a picture of on of the windows in my hand.


The windows for the older part of the house are finished. There are a lot of them, as you can see, and in three different styles.
To give you an idea of size, the squares on the mat are 1''. The square roughly in the middle of the frame contains all the basic pieces for one of the narrow windows.

I'm using strip styrene for these, in sizes from .010"x .010"(almost hairlike, used for the inside moldings) to .010" x .040". They are assembled with a special cement that "welds" the pieces together by dissolving the plastic a little. It can be tricky to apply - too much and you have a gooey puddle where your part used to be! To avoid this, I cut all but a very few bristles off the applicator brush.
Today I'm making the windows for the newer back part of the house and hope to at least start on the three doors.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back to work

I'm back, and working on windows and doors. There should be a new picture tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pieces of the House

Here are all the pieces of the house, except for the roof. Some of the duplicate pieces are interior bracing, and won't show on the finished model. The one inch squares on the mat will give you an idea of the size.

I won't be posting June 5 - 13, as I will be attending the IGMA Guild School in Castine Maine. I will be hard at work when I return, because I want to meet the scheduled completion date of June 3Oth.

Article in Miniature Gazette

For those of you who are NAME members - there is a nice article about my work by Anne Day Smith in the May/June issue of Miniature Gazette, page 17.

If you're not a NAME* member - why not? It's a great organization, and a good way to meet others who share a love of things mini.

*National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Construction begins

Today was spent building the base - every building needs a good foundation!

I added cross bracing to prevent warping and also installed the molding around the edge, which will be painted later on.

The footprint of the building is laid out on the base, but it isn't much to look at yet, so no pictures till tomorrow or Thursday.

Stay tuned!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Mockup

The cardstock model went together nicely, with only a couple of slight adjustments.

While doing this does take a bit of time, experience has taught me that in the long run it saves time by exposing any problems with the design. It's much easier, and less painful, to rip up a piece of cardboard than to have to discard and redo a good piece of wood with window and door openings painstakingly cut into it.

The next step will be calculating the window and door openings; then real construction will begin. I should add that I will have to scratch build the windows and doors for this building, as they are unusual shapes and sizes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reply to Comments

I should have mentioned that this one is going to be exterior only, with landscaping.

I agree with the comment that it is an interesting house, with a lot of charm. Similar stone porches can be seen on a number of houses in the same area. I suspect there was a very good local mason at they time they were built, who liked to do such projects. Michigan has an endless supply of interesting rocks, thanks to ancient glaciers, and he has made the most of them.

I also like the bit of "carpenter's lace" in the gable. The door and window surrounds are very nicely designed, and clearly the work of a skilled carpenter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Beginning...

The first step in the new project was to get good photographs (some were provided by the client) and critical measurements of the real building.

Now I'm translating these into plans for the 1:144 scale version. This is a time consuming part of the project, and involves a lot of math. I first made a "footprint" and then elevations of the walls on all four sides. The finished house will be 2 1/8" to the top of the roof.

It's vital that the calculations be accurate in order to avoid problems later on, so I'll make a quick cardstock model to make sure everything will fit together properly. If all is well, I'll move on to plotting door and window openings. I probably won't do a plan for the roof - I can work that out after the walls are up.

Here you can see photographs of the house, my field notes (on the left), the footprint drawing and a couple of the elevations (center and right front), and my tattered but indispensable chart for converting decimals to fractions.

And yes, for anyone who may be wondering, I do wear reading glasses!

Just click on the picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Victorian House

Back to work!

My next project will be something I haven't done for a while - a replica of a real house (outside only). The original is a small Victorian house with an interesting stone porch.

I've been on site to take photos and do measurements. My next step will be to make a floor plan and elevation, which will take a few days. I don't make detailed drawings - just basic shapes - and I work out the details as I go along.

This is the sort of thing I had to do during my movie career, when I often had to work from only photographs with no measurements at all. Having measurements makes the planning stage quite a bit faster, believe me!

I will post some pictures when I have the basic design worked out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Home from Chicago

The Chicago International show was as wonderful as ever, in spite of the troubled U.S. economy. In fact, I saw some of the best, most exciting work ever by many talented artists.

This is a shot of my sales table on Sunday afternoon, after most of the items sold were on their way to new homes.

We drove back to Michigan through a very messy snowstorm, and were glad to finally arrive home after 11 PM.

This week is for relaxing, as always after a show, and for doing some of the things I had put off until "after Chicago."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Emily's Baby House

I was trying to copy this post and accidentally deleted it, so I'm putting it back! I apologize to whoever left the comment, which disappeared along with the rest of the post, before I could read it!

This is a piece I have just finished for the Chicago show.

The little girl has just finished putting furniture in the baby house that originally belonged to her grandmother. The house is in an architectural style cabinet, typical of many English baby houses of the 18th century. Note the Chinese wallpaper in the bedroom - the height of fashion at the time.

The porcelain doll is by Jill Bennett, and the miniature greyhound is by Karl Blindheim.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Baby House

This is the three room version. It's an order that is being delivered at Chicago International.

Gilbert really outdid himself on this cabinet. Isn't the trompe l'oiel design on the door amazing? He does marquetry floors, as well, though they don't show in the picture.

There's a porcelain dog on a cushion by Sylvia Mobely in front of the fireplace on the middle floor.

No, I didn't do this in one day! It was already finished, but I hadn't photographed it yet.

Size: 7 7/8"h x 3"w (closed) x 2" deep

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Single Room Baby House

This single room cabinet house was inspired by the Dutch and English "baby" houses of the 1700's ("baby" was the word for "doll" at the time.) The furnishings are in the style of the 1740's. This piece gives me a chance to do lots of faux marble, something I really enjoy.
The beautiful walnut and exotic wood cabinet is by my friend Gilbert Mena; a very talented artist, as you can see. There is a frosted glass skylight in the top. which creates a nice, dramatic lighting effect. I wanted to take the picture before installing the glass front, so there is a slight gap between the column tops and the "roof" which won't be there when everything is glued into place.
I also make three room and ten room baby houses, for which Gilbert makes even more elaborate cabinets. One of the ten room versions, now part of a museum collection, is shown in the small picture at the right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Still going for Baroque

This one is taking a bit longer than I had anticipated - not an unusual situation! It should be ready for its closeup tonight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Going for Baroque (style, that is!)

I'm finishing up a very elegant single room "baby house" in a lovely 1:12 scale cabinet by Gilbert Mena. This baby house could have been owned by any wealthy European woman of the earlt 18th Century.

Pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Irish Cottage

This piece was already finished, but I thought it would be appropriate for St. Patrick's Day. In the background is the village of Carlingford, Co. Louth.

Erin go bragh, everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cozy Cotage Interior

Just a sitting room and bedroom with English country style furnishings. Cooking could be done on the range built into the fireplace.
A dog on a cushion by Sylvia Mobley will be lying in front of the bedroom fireplace, but he hasn't arrived yet.

Cozy Cottage - 4

All finished!
The landscaping makes a big difference. Notice the built in bench on the side wall.
The tiny flowerpots are by Braxton Payne.

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